By Henry Gilbert

AllGrid Energy’s (AGE) event ‘Illuminating the EnviroMENTAL: healing from the inside out’ is only two weeks away. Held in the SMC conference and function center in Sydney, it promises to be a powerful and inspiring event. The night features an array of speakers discussing innovative and inspiring strategies for community regeneration and well-being. The opening address will be given by Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore and the key note address will be delivered by Dr David Suzuki.

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In the lead up to the event we’re doing a series of articles to acquaint you with our speakers.

Elijah DouglasFirst up is the incredibly inspiring Elijah Douglas, a youth worker for Save the Children and winner of this year’s National NAIDOC Youth of the Year Award. We’ve caught up with Elijah once before in an article on AGE’s project in Bidunggu, where AGE is assisting the community to escape energy poverty by replacing their outdated and expensive diesel generators with solar panels and batteries.

“It’s been really exciting to have AllGrid out here putting up solar panels,” He told me, “Its really brought the community together.”

I asked Elijah about his experiences of mental health in the country.

“There is a lot of people struggling with mental health out on country, I mean there’s a lot of it everywhere but especially on country.” He said, “I think a lot of it comes from feeling isolated. You know, isolated in the country, isolated in our homes. Young Indigenous people now days often don’t know the value of culture and country, so they become disconnected from the things that could really help them. If you get too isolated you end up letting your dreams die, and that… That’s what really causes people to struggle with their mental health.”

“Suicide is… Its tough.” He said, “Really I think substance abuse is a major factor. I think sometimes people store up thoughts inside that they hide from everyone. And then they’ll be drinking and they’ll let those thoughts take control. It’s really tough.”

I asked Elijah how he went about helping kids battle the blues.

“I run a couple of football teams of boys, the Dirriwalda Boys under 11’s and under 15’s. These boys really love their football, they love the game and they love playing it together. So I really try and build something from that. Get them connecting with the land and their culture. I take them on adventures out on country, and teach them about bush tucker, traditional medicines, and hunting. It really helps I think. It gets them excited about life out here, because you know, its such beautiful country.”

Elijah Douglas Footy kids
Elijah coaching the Dirriwalda boys

“It’s been really amazing working with Save the Kids. They’ve been so supportive of all the things I’ve been doing in the community and have really helped me support my community. It’s been a great journey.”

AGE will be setting up a crowdfunding campaign for Elijah’s Dirriwalda Boys soon to get them training gear and support.

“It’d be so great to get some funding for Dirriwalda boys.” Elijah told me, “I’d love to be able to go on trips to have games with other remote communities, and I’m sure the boys would love it too. I just think those connections are so important.”

We’ll keep you updated when that happens. It was very inspiring to talk to Elijah and hear his warm and honest wisdom. I’m very much looking forward to seeing him in Sydney at ‘Illuminating the EnviroMENTAL: healing from the inside out’. If you’re interested in participating in this amazing event we’d love to have you along on the night. If you can’t attend we have set up a donation crowd-funding platform for people and we would very much appreciate it if you could share these events through your social media platforms.

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